The Mary Rose

Preserving a historical treasure

Cross section of the Mary Rose recovered warship with projections (2016-08-10) by ©Hufton+CrowMuseum of Engineering Innovation

E SCHOFIELD-Mary Rose mp3

Dr Eleanor Schofield

Engineering is key to conserving, curating and sharing our history

Technology has helped detect, rescue, resurrect and conserve the remains of the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s warship, since the mission to find it began in the 1960s.  

Interior of the Mary Rose Museum displays (2013-05-20) by ©Hufton+CrowMuseum of Engineering Innovation

The Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth houses the ship’s hull and thousands of Tudor artefacts that were sealed under clay and silt when it sank in 1545.    

Cross section of the Mary Rose recovered warship with projections (2016-08-10) by ©Hufton+CrowMuseum of Engineering Innovation

Apart from cursory excavations by pioneer divers in the 1830s, the hull laid untouched for over 400 years.

In the late 1960s, divers used sonar scans to identify the wreck. 

Gun carriages in tank to aid their preservation during restoration (2009-01-26) by ®The Mary Rose TrustMuseum of Engineering Innovation

The silt had preserved the buried items and divers began to bring a veritable Tudor treasure trove to the surface.  

Between 1979 and 1982, 28,000 dives brought up 19,000 artefacts, including cannons, gun carriages, wooden tankards and even nit combs. 

The Mary Rose hull being raised from the sea (2011-11-29) by Christopher DobbsMuseum of Engineering Innovation

In 1982, media gathered from all over the world and an estimated 60 million people watched the raising of the hull on television. 

It was taken to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, close to where Henry VIII had the warship built nearly 500 years before.    

The Mary Rose undergoing restoration (2018-01-04) by ®The Mary Rose TrustMuseum of Engineering Innovation

For a few weeks, a pumping system kept the timber work of the Mary Rose soaked with seawater. 

This was switched to freshwater, chilled to 2°C to discourage microorganisms, which continued for a decade. 

Restoration engineer with the Mary Rose wreck (2020-07-29) by Dr Eleanor SchofieldMuseum of Engineering Innovation

In 1994, the Mary Rose team decided to use a compound solution to replace the water in the wood to conserve the hull. 

In 2013, they turned off the sprays to start drying out the ship.  

Interior of the Mary Rose Museum with the warship lit in blue light (2016-07-21) by ©Hufton+CrowMuseum of Engineering Innovation

A new museum was built to house the hull and display its artefacts, with minimal space around the hull to make it easier to maintain the temperature and humidity needed to it. 

Once the ship was sufficiently dry in 2015, air locks were fitted to help prevent too rapid changes of humidity and temperature when visitors circulate.    

In the nine galleries, most of the artefacts on display are arranged opposite the corresponding decks of the hull where they would have been found or used.    

Oil painting of the Mary Rose warship sinking in the Solent (2012-01-05) by ®Geoff Hunt, PPRSMAMuseum of Engineering Innovation

There have been plenty of firsts achieved with the raising and conserving of the Mary Rose and there are more advances that will be made in the coming years. 

It seems that even after more than 400 years on the seabed, the Mary Rose is the Tudor ship that just wants to keep on giving.    

Outside of the Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth (2014-03-10) by ®The Mary Rose TrustMuseum of Engineering Innovation

The Mary Rose Museum

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